Products of Change


Tue 16 Aug 2022 | by Rob Hutchins

Fashion Conscious | Anna Knight talks couture, culture, and climate change action at BLE 2022

Just shy of rolling out the carpet for Kate Moss this year, Brand Licensing Europe is certainly looking to make a statement this year. And that statement is in fashion. Attendees will be invited to join the couture club next month when the doors of the largest licensing show Europe has to offer open once again to an industry ready to mingle as fashion takes up one of the show’s key three themes for 2022. Nine fashion shows will span Brand Licensing Europe’s three days this September with the likes of Mattel, SEGA, NBC Universal, Sony, Pink Key Licensing and more all taking to the catwalk to showcase their boldest looks. Of course, where there is fashion the conversation around sustainability will surely follow and Brand Licensing Europe 2022 will be no exception. Sustainability, purpose, and diversity and inclusion will make up an entire theme for the show this year as the BLE team at Informa continue to drive their own journey with sustainability forwards. Ahead of the big event kicking off September 20th at London’s ExCeL, we catch up with Anna Knight, Informa Markets’ SVP of licensing to learn a lot more about what Brand Licensing Europe has to offer this year. Hello Anna, it’s great to be catching again ahead of BLE 2022. You’ve promised us all something new, let’s find out what that is! What’s the focus for this year? There are several focuses for BLE this year: 1) Fashion – that’s the 2022 theme; 2) sustainability, purpose and D&I, which is our focus for Day Three; 3) bringing back the experiential and ‘live’ elements that BLE is famous for – so, the Fashion Catwalk is obviously the pinnacle, plus the License Global Theatre, License Global TV, the fashion-themed product showcases, sustainability drop-in clinics run by your good selves at Products of Change, and much more. We have nine fashion shows over three days. With Mattel, SEGA, NBC Universal, Sony Interactive, IMC Toys, Wildbrain CPLG, Perfetti Van Melle and Pink Key Licensing among those taking part, the shows will be a spectacle of color and creativity with Barbie, Sonic the Hedgehog, TeletubbiesxEllessexGoGuy, Cry Babies and MentosxLobstars just some of the products rocking the runway. We’ll also have fashion displays throughout BLE to showcase additional partnerships and collaborations, and the show entrances will be taken over by Mattel, Paramount, Hasbro, SEGA, CAA-GBG and Products of Change to immerse visitors as soon as they arrive at the event. The fashion theme runs through to our educational content, too, with Mattel President and COO Richard Dickson presenting the opening day keynote – ‘Barbie x Fashion’ –  focusing on the ultimate fashion and pop icon that is Barbie. This is on Tuesday 20 September at 1pm in the License Global Theatre. Further sessions on the conference programme will focus on sustainability, purpose and DEI, discuss how consumer trends and behaviour impact retail, how the new age consumer is spending, sports and LBE panels, and the launch of Brands Untapped 100 amid an exploration of the creative strategies and design thinking that goes into crafting authentic, successful brand extensions, plus even more. Sounds great! So is this an evolution of where we left off with the in-person return of BLE last year? How are you building on that excitement to deliver the new this year? For sure. Covid-related restrictions meant we had to wait another year to run our fashion theme and introduce the BLE Catwalk. It also prevented some visitors and exhibitors from attending in 2021 and impacted the onsite experience – albeit minimally. Everyone was so happy to be back in person and the feedback was amazing, and our goal this year is to build on that so that visitor and exhibitor numbers are closer to the phenomenal levels achieved in 2019. In terms of the show’s relationship with sustainability, how is this journey evolving this year and what will that look like on the show floor this September? BLE partnered with Products of Change to host the Sustainability Activation at last year’s event, which was a huge success – highlighting products, materials and processes that are already being used along the licensing supply chain to increase its sustainability credentials and decrease its environmental impact. This year, you can meet the entire POC team again. Helena, Rob and the Products of Change ambassadors will run sustainability clinics (available to all attendees) and member meet-ups. This is the perfect place to receive advice, education and best practice on creating, progressing or optimising your business’ sustainability plan. BLE will actually be the only place to meet the Products of Change team in-person outside of SiLC launching in October so it’s a brilliant opportunity for anyone on their sustainability journey to get advice. Products of Change members will be invited to attend BLE on Thursday 22 September, and CEO and founder Helena Mansell-Stopher will be on our Day Three keynote panel The good fight: how purpose breeds success,’ alongside The Point.1888’s Will Stewart, Paramount’s Veronica Hart, Kingston Myles from English Heritage and The Smiley Company’s Nicolas Loufrani. Helena is also hosting a one-to-one session with Catrina O’Brien, Head of Retail EurAsia - Licensing Consumer Products, at Hasbro to talk about Hasbro’s sustainability journey. You'll also not want to miss The BLE & Products of Change Sustainability Café, which will recycle materials from last year’s Sustainability Activation and showcase sustainable consumer products and fashion lines from 12 brands, including Mattel, Primark, Eden Project, Wastebuster, Smiley, Wow Stuff, RSPB, Hasbro and Asda, Smurfs, Pure Top Table, and Discovery. We’ve got a big focus on fashion this year with the catwalk and fashion is a huge part of the licensing sector. Why is it important to be showcasing and celebrating the level of innovation in the fashion space the year? The fashion space has always been innovative, creative, inspirational – from high end couture to high street trends. What’s interesting is the way licensing sits comfortably at both ends of the spectrum. We’re seeing luxury brands collaborating with mass market licenses to create some brilliant product that truly extends the reach and credibility of both parties. We’re going to see brilliant examples of this innovation on the catwalk. Just wait, it’ll be truly WOW. As wonderfully creative as it is, we know fashion - in particular fast fashion - has a large-scale sustainability problem. What’s on the agenda this year to highlight and help educate on this issue, and the role the licensing industry has to play in finding the solution? Every country, industry, business and person on the planet contributes to climate change and has a role to play in helping to save the planet. Licensing is no different and the fashion industry, in particular, knows it has a huge role to play in in making the entire supply chain more sustainable and introducing a true circular economy, and that’s why it’s so important for BLE to share innovation, inspire, educate and advise to help other businesses get on board and make a difference before it’s too late. We have a very special catwalk show organised by Products of Change, together with Junk Kouture and the United Nations, which will be an educational and inspiring 15-minute set with presentations and performances centred around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a catalyst for change. Within the set, Junk Couture will host an exclusive catwalk show, presenting designs from their worldwide competition where 13–18-year-old students are empowered to embrace the principle of sustainable living creating apparel and couture from recycled materials. And there will be product showcases on the Products of Change stand and also in the N4 entrance area, which will highlight inspirational examples of sustainable fashion, including some of the Junk Kouture students’ collections. And, of course, don’t miss the Products of Change free sustainability drop-in clinics! We cannot wait for all of this, it's very exciting for us to be bringing this to BLE this year! Now, this year will also be the first year of partnership with Brands Untapped for a close up look at the design and creativity behind some of the most innovative collaborations in the licensing space. Why is this an important aspect of licensing to be celebrating? I think it’s really important, because the licensing conversation can sometimes be limited to licensor and licensee, and there are so many other very important contributors involved including designers who deserve the recognition. Plus, we’ve come a long way since label slapping, when brand names were whacked on poor quality, cheap and cheerful product. We’re much more conscious of the role licensed product plays and how critical it is that that product aligns with the company’s – and its customers’ – purpose and values and that means incorporating great design.   We also think there's a lot of value in celebrating and really taking stock of what the licensing industry has produced. It's a good way to reflect and take breath. So Anna, what’s on your ‘must see’ list for Brand Licensing Europe this year?  It’s got to be the BLE Fashion Catwalk because it’s a total one-off for this year, it will be incredible and there really will be something for everyone. And it sounds like it's going to be a great way to get everyone in the mood for a good time. Speaking of which, where are the parties at this year?  Good questions! Never forget the networking. We’ll have four branded cafes and bars offering immersive experiences, product installations and additional meeting space. Everyone is welcome to join us for opening night drinks on the show floor on 20 September from 5:00pm – 7:00pm and the exhibitor drinks reception on 21 September at the Novotel from 5:00pm – 7:00pm. Then we'll see you there. At each of them. Thanks Anna!